Monday, 5 August 2019

Tasted #459: The GlenDronach 1993 Single Cask #392 26yo (exclusively bottled for The Whisky List, Australia)

I don't really post about GlenDronach enough here on the blog, but it's one of my favourite distilleries and its single casks make up a not-insignificant portion of my whisky collection. Whilst the distillery has a few "defining years" in its recent history (1996: Closure. 2002: Production recommencement. 2005: switch to steam heating. 2016: Acquisition by Brown-Forman), amongst enthusiasts one year holds a special place: 1993.

I've never heard a definitive reason as to why 1993 is considered such a good "vintage", nor why it's better than 1992 or 1994 (production techniques and cask regimes remained the same through the period), but for some reason, 1993 casks hold a special place in the hearts of 'Dronach lovers - especially those from early 1993. In fact as I write these words, I'm enjoying a 1993 cask #397 23yo bottled for Kenny Hsu in Taiwan - incidentally distilled on the same day as the whisky I'm reviewing here. It's very good indeed.
But I digress. The bottle I'm reviewing today, also a 1993 Single Cask GlenDronach, is special for a few reasons:
  • The entire cask is exclusive to Australia (I could be wrong here, but I think that's a first. Sydney's brilliant Oak Barrel had a 2003 exclusive single cask a few years ago, but I believe it was split with Whisky Galore NZ).
  • It's a 26yo 1993, meaning it was bottled in 2019. Even the latest Batch 17 GlenDronach single casks from the distillery don't include a 26yo 1993 (there are 1993s, but they're all 25yo)
  • It was distilled on 12th Feb 1993 - the same day as some other very highly rated GlenDronach single casks.

An outturn of 659 bottles means someone took a pretty big punt on bringing this cask to Australia, and that "someone" is the team behind The Whisky List, who through their app and website "help Australians – from beginners to connoisseurs – discover, enjoy, and share great whisky".

(To be clear - the whisky is an Official Bottling, or OB, bottled by the distillery but exclusively for The Whisky List. GlenDronach have been doing this for a while now, bottling casks for whisky shops, clubs, events and even individual whisky lovers).


The whisky, from an ex-Oloroso Butt (like the best GlenDronachs in my view) has been bottled at 51.0% ABV in May 2019. Chris Ross, Co-founder at The Whisky List explained 
“Being a small market and far away from the US and the UK, Australia often is left to last - or just completely left out - of selecting any single cask bottlings from distilleries, forcing whisky drinkers and collectors in Australia to purchase these kinds of releases from overseas websites and auction houses. This is why we’ve partnered with Brown-Forman in selecting this delicious cask from GlenDronach.” 
He's not wrong - ask any GlenDronach fan in Australia (or HK for that matter) and you'll find that, apart from the official single cask "batches" (which you can pick up at the likes of Oak Barrel), they most likely purchased their single casks from overseas. In my case, all mine have come from Oak Barrel, Taiwan, or UK retailers. So it's indeed refreshing to see an official Aussie release, available exclusively on Australian shores.

...but enough about the background, how does it taste!? In a nutshell, very very good indeed...

GlenDronach 1993 Single Cask #392 (exclusively bottled for The Whisky List, Australia)  (51.0% ABV, 26yo, Highlands, Scotland, $700AUD)
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Colour: Orange-red copper.

Nose: Rich, sweet and sherried but without the overly-domineering sherry / oak that some GlenDronach single casks exhibit. Quite perfumed - there are notes of pot pourri, followed by sweet toffee, then some Vietnamese coffee. Everything seems in harmony - there's an obvious sherry element (26 years in an ex-sherry butt will do that!) but there's also this elegant perfumed element that is far less common in GlenDronach single casks of this age. After a bit of time slight hints of sandalwood emerge. 

Palate: The palate follows the nose, with lots of toffee confectionary, a slight almond nuttiness, a little more sandalwood, candied almonds, sultanas and cinnamon. A sherry bomb this is not, and it's all the better for it. This has elegance and balance on a level not often seen.

Finish: Long and sweet, with only the slightest oak tannins at the very end. 

Rating (on my very non-scientific scale): 93/100. I'm not exaggerating here, this is one of the best GlenDronach single casks I've had*. In the pantheon of 1993 single casks, I'd rate #55 and #394 up there as some of my favourites, and this easily equals them, if not beats them (I haven't tried them back to back). I love that it hits all the right sherry notes, without being a bomb. Don't get me wrong - I love sherry bombs, but I also love whiskies that have more nuance and elegance, whilst still being bloody delicious. This ticks all those boxes and then some.


Now of course, $700AUD ($650AUD pre-sale) is not a small chunk of change for a whisky, but let's face it, GlenDronach prices have been rising for years now, as have whisky prices in general...and to put things into perspective:
  • An equivalent bottle in the UK, let's say Batch 17 1992 single cask #113 (also an ex-Oloroso at 26yo, at a similar 50.1% ABV) is £306, or $547AUD. If you had a UK friend pick one up for you and then ship it to Australia (at a cost of let's say $50AUD), you'd get stung with (give or take) around $120AUD in taxes, which would bring your total up to ~$717. Ok sure, if you managed to avoid the VAT it would come in slightly under $700AUD, but for me, the example highlights that the pricing isn't at all unrealistic given the current state of the market.

GlenDronach 1993 Single Cask #392 (exclusively bottled for The Whisky List, Australia) is available now via The Whisky List and to allow potential customers to try before they buy, The Whisky List in partnership with GlenDronach will host a number of tastings featuring the bottle in some of Australia's best whisky bars, including Archie Rose Distilling Co. (NSW), Hains & Co (SA), The Elysian (VIC), Whisky + Alement (VIC) and Halford Bar (WA). Tickets for these events will be announced via The Whisky List website, newsletter and social media. A limited supply of bottles will also be available to purchase at the upcoming Sydney Whisky Fair 2019 (the best whisky fair in Australia, if you ask me).

Thanks must go to the TWL guys for the sample, and we wish them all the best spreading the word of this lovely cask throughout the Aussie whisky community.

Cheers,
Martin.

*If you're curious, the honour of the best GDs I’ve had goes jointly to these two bottles (both of which are vattings):

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